Knowing the variety and the days to maturity will give you a ballpark figure for when you should begin checking for maturity. Then look for signs of ripening on both the vine and the fruit. The tendril closest to the stem end of the melon will turn brown as the fruit ripens. Also, the underside of the watermelon where it rests on the ground will change from green to a yellowish white. Finally, feel the skin. As the melon ripens, the shiny skin will turn dull. It will also feel slightly rough, and as you run your hand around the melon’s center you may notice a certain irregularity, as if you were feeling the muscles of a tensed calf.
Some people can pick a ripe melon by the sound it makes when you thump it. This is a more subjective indicator of maturity and requires a good ear. Immature melons have a metallic ringing sound after being thumped. A really deep thud usually indicates a melon that is overripe. One Japanese watermelon breeder likened the sounds to striking your forehead, your chest, and your belly. You want to pick a melon that matches the sound your chest makes when thumped.
This post is excerpted from the July/August 2003 issue of Horticulture.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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